Winged

Thirty-five stories and she had to trudge her way to the top. It was something she didn’t want to do, but had to do.

Carla was on a mission. She had to try out her new wings.

She stood before her reflection in the glass door. They were light, delicate and very nearly invisible.

Carla found the stairway. “But the elevator would be so much quicker,” she complained.

Reaching the top floor, she stated, “I gotta rest a couple of minutes.”

Once out side, she step onto the ledge. New wings or not, Carla had entered the ‘no fly zone.’

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A Day at Andelin

Following a spate of deaths in my life, it felt good to do something creative and refreshing. Creative because I took my camera with me; refreshing because I’d have the chance to see newly born animals.

To that end I visited the nearby Andelin Family Farm in Spanish Springs, Nevada as they held one of their community events. I thought I’d get there early but even though I was there half-an-hour ahead of opening, I was around two-hundred people in the back of the line. There is also something nostalgic and reassuring about a neatly manicured road, whether it be dirt, gravel or paved. It’s even more nostalgic and reassuring when it’s lined with budding trees.

Andelin Farm is teeming with new Spring life including ducklings, chicks, lambs, and kids…

Watch out for the emu though. As I was photographing one, the other sneaked up on me and bit the back of my left hand.

Honestly, the broken skin and scabs are nothing compared to the force of the bird’s striking capabilities. My palm remains extremely sore.

Worse has happened to me in life, so I’m laughing this off as jus’ another odd thing I can add to my list of strange stuff that’s happened to me.  (Huh? What do you mean you don’t have a list?)

They have a lot to do from horse and pony rides, large and kiddie hay rides, to static-roping, mazes, rocking horses, to real people food and feed for the animals. That was what really made my heart sing — seeing the excitement on the faces of the many youngsters as they interacted with the animals.

So if you grew up around the barn yard but moved away from and miss it, you’ll come away remembering the many wonderful scents from your childhood. It may also be jus’ the thing you need to recharge your sense of purpose in life.

As for me — today I have a deep feeling of renewal in my spirit.

Fred North, 1956-2018

Sometimes there is simply no relief from the pain of life – or more to the point – death. Tuesday night as we lay in bed, me trying to fall asleep, my wife was on her device when she learned that our friend and former next-door neighbor had passed away earlier in the day.

We first met Fred North while looking for a church to attend. He was playing his base-guitar at Living Waters, a church that folded a few years back when our preacher retired.

At first, we figured that we’d never see some of these folks again and for the most part, we were right. One person though, popped up in our lives again; Freddo (I always called him that) purchased the house next door to us.

It was a wonderful surprise. We spent a lot of time traveling back and forth from one front porch to the other and it was amazing how his computer tech business, ‘Doctor Geek,’ took off.

Freddo used to write a blog about his experiences with the business, but stopped posting in 2010. It can still be found here.

Not only did we have Christ in common, but we also had our dogs. He had two, including his favorite, a very old lab retriever named ‘Worf.’

Yes, Fred was major Trekkie fan, having named his dog after Michael Dorn’s character on the Star Trek reboot , “Next Generation.” The dog was nothing like his TV name sake though, as he always had a ‘wag and a lick’ handy for everyone.

After ‘Worf’ died, Freddo changed and his health took a downward turn. In early 2008, he packed up his last remaining puppy-dog pal, ‘Joshie,’ sold his house and move into town.

We didn’t see him very much after that, though we did stay in touch via social media. That’s why I had no idea how ill he’d become — in fact I found out later that he’d been hospitalized after nearly dying once before.

One afternoon, he called me, asking if we could take Joshie for a few days because he was heading home to Battle Mountain, Nevada for a visit and the dog was too old to travel. I jumped at the chance, having him here for three or four days.

The getaway was good for Fred as his health improved, even getting rid of his walker for a while – maybe even permanently — after that trip home. The next time I saw Freddo, he was scootering around downtown Reno on his little red Vespa.

That was last September, during Hot August Night, where he was enjoying his newest hobby, photography. And now I find myself amazed at how quickly things can change in six-months.

Beyond his passing, I also missed the opportunity to stop and see him the day before his death. I was taking some product to my wife’s sandwich shop and drove by his place, telling myself, “When I come back this way, I gotta stop and say ‘hi,’ to Freddo.”

Somehow, I got side tracked and forgot and this has me ‘bummed out,’ as Fred would have said. If he were still here, I’d apologize for having forgot and he’d have said, “No big deal.”

That in a nut-shell was Fred’s mantra – “No big deal.” Laid-back, easy-going, always smiling and friendly — we’re gonna miss that and you too, Freddo.

Tim Dunn, 1951-2018

“Ah, geez. Make it stop!” I wrote to my friend, Elizabeth Rose after she messaged me about Tim’s passing. She responded, “I know, my friend.”

Number eight for 2018, but whose counting. Me.

After trying to write this for a while I realized that I’ve nearly come up short on words as they’re sounding the same. Tim Dunn was not only a good photographer, he really was a nice guy; genuine to the bone.

Tim possessed an innate ability to connect with people whether through his images, insights, humor, or his heart. I worked on a number of stories where I watched him work ‘his magic.’

We first met in 1994, shortly after he started at a local newspaper, while I’d been plugging along as an operator for the regional para-transit system. I’d stopped to help after a bread truck ran up and over a ‘model kit’ car, injuring both the drive and passenger.

Tim was there a minute or two after I began assessing the injured men. I could hear him snapping photos behind me and when it was all over, I asked him if he made certain to get my best side.

He laughed despite the possibly of having heard that line a hundred times before. The next day though, I opened the newspaper and there it was – a photograph of my butt, leaning into the car.

He’d gotten my ‘good side,’ and made certain the world knew it. That was my real introduction into Tim.

But it wasn’t always good times and giggles. In June 2012, Tim was covering a major house when a Washoe County Sheriff deputy told him to clear out and failing to do so fast enough, the deputy shoved Tim to the ground, where his face was left bruised, cut and bloodied.

Deputies maintained that Tim had jeopardized his safety by continuing to approach the burning building, despite instructions to back off.  Charged with obstruction and resisting arrest, it took about a year for them to be dropped.

They also publicly accused him of impersonating a firefighter because he was wearing protective clothing. However, fire gear’s issued to most media outlets in Nevada because of the inherent danger of covering such news stories.

As a news reporter, working for the competition, I happened to be on a number of stories where I had the pleasure of watching Tim work. Somehow, using nothing more than a healthy dose of compassion by connecting with people and treating them with dignity, he was able to document their lives from the heart.

Thank you, Tim for your friendship. I look forward to viewing your Heavenly photo-spread one day, but don’t wait up.

R. Lee Ermey, 1944-2018

He had the roughest exterior in nearly every show or movies he ever did, but inside, R. Lee Ermey was a gentle soul. That’s the best way I can describe the man and it hurt’s my heart to know he’s now standing post at the pearly gates of Heaven.

Since his passing over the weekend, everyone’s recalling his performance as Gunnery Sergeant Hartman in “Full Metal Jacket.” But for me, I will always remember the first time I saw him on-screen as Staff Sergeant Loyce, in “The Boy’s of Company ‘C.’”

Lee was making a morale-swing through the middle east after coming from Europe, when I got the chance to meet him. Not many Grunts knew who he was and some were grumbling , “Fucking Hollywood-type, thinks he’s a Marine.”

Well this ‘Holly-weird,’ type (Lee’s word’s, not mine) was a real Marine, in the ‘Suck’ while the majority of us so-called ‘hard-asses’ were still wet-behind-the-ear pukes. It wouldn’t be until 1987 and the movie ‘FMJ,’ that his place in Marine lore would be cemented.

But in 1982, a few of us did recognize him and that left him ‘tickled.’ Later, I’d learn he felt personally wounded by the negative comments.

One early morning in 1999, the station’s hot-line rang and this ragged-ass voice starts in on me, half-growling, half-barking and all Marine rapid-fire, “What in the fucking name of Chesty Puller, do you think you’re doing? What’s your major malfunction, Shithead? You’re the lowest form of life on earth. You’re not even a fucking human being! In fact Darby, you’re nothing more than a grabastic piece of amphibian shit! You better unfuck yourself or I will unscrew your head and shit down your neck. Do I make myself clear?”

After a lengthy pause, he added in the friendliest-tone ever, “How ya doing, Sarge.”

He had a way with words – include the dialogue above — which he ad libbed in ‘FMJ,’ and later used on me as a joke. Man, how I wish I had recorded that spiel, because it was classic, but I didn’t, because it was the ‘hot-line.’

By then I was sputtering and spitting, gearing up to challenge whatever SOB it was, who had the balls to call me via an internal phone line and go-off on me like this. Then he started laughing and I realized it was set-up and that Lee was pranking me.

He and his ‘handler,’ as he put it, were sitting out behind the radio station waiting to make a guest appearance on the morning show. I told him to, “Get your asses down here in front of the building where I can let you in. Magot juice (coffee) is on!”

You didn’t have to ask me twice to stick around throughout the morning so I could be a part of the show and laugh it up with the crew and Lee. A very memorable four-hours for me.

The last time I spoke to him was around 2008 when he made an appearance with a well-known conservative radio talk-show host. I was ‘big man on campus,’ that day because I knew ‘the man,’ and graciously Lee came off as if we were the oldest and toughest of all effing Marines and the best friends God had ever paired up.

Thank you, Lee for making me feel like I belonged. You are, in my humble opinion, the epitome of what a Marine is both on the field of combat and in the arena of civility.

Rest easy, Gunny. Ooh-rah and Semper fidelis, Lee.

Art Bell, 1945-2018

It’s interesting the people we get to know when we’re not trying. That’s exactly how it was with Art Bell, who passed away at his Pahrump home in Nye County, Nevada on Friday the 13th (he’d have enjoyed the irony) and with whom I had the pleasure of being acquainted.

Interestingly, it happened while I wasn’t doing radio – I was working for a newspaper and Art was visiting a local radio station that carried his show, “Coast to Coast AM.” Invited to interview him for the paper, the man practically interviewed me instead.

Ever the entertainer and formidable conversationalist, Art had me laughing as I tried to take notes without a lot of success. He literally was ‘the most interesting man in the world,’ not to take anything away from Dos Equis beer or Jonathan Goldsmith.

Unfortunately, the story I’d written never got published as I was fired before the article’s deadline. And it was ignorant of me to chuck my notes.

So, here’s sort of an update:

He was the founder and the original host of the radio program ‘Coast to Coast AM’ as well as its companion show ‘Dreamland.’ Art took on semi-retirement in 2003, but couldn’t stay away from broadcasting, continuing to host on the weekends.

He finally announced his retirement from weekend hosting in July 2007, though he did guest host from time to time through 2010. I know this because by then I was a news reporter and announcer at the radio station carrying his program.

“This time, it’s for real,” he said, adding that the reason for his retirement was to spend more time with his new wife and newborn daughter. From June to December 2006, he lived in the Philippines, (coming back every so often on business) but returning there in March 2009, because he couldn’t get a U.S. visa for his wife.

Art told me at the time of our sit-down that radio broadcasting was ‘an addiction,’ and so I wasn’t surprised when he returned the airwaves in July 2015, with a new show, “Midnight in the Desert.” He eventually retired from that show in December of the same year because of security concerns.

People were trespassing and taking pot-shots at his home. “I’m not only tired of the harassment, I’m frightened for my family,” he told me in January 2016, during our last conversation, adding, “I believe whoever’s doing this, wants me off the air permanently.”

Over the years, Art pointed out that he was born on Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, where I’d been stationed; that he shared the same birth date of June 17th with my son; he returned to the air with a new on July 20th, my birth date; and the we were both inductees of the Nevada Broadcasters Association’s Hall of Fame. Art had a way of drawing lines through people’s lives that intersected with his, thus making us feel special, if not important.

God-speed, Art, from somewhere beyond “The Land of Nye.”

Pete Meyer, 1950-2018

There’s little worse than waking up to learn that someone you’ve known for more than half your life is suddenly gone. That’s what happened on April 4th, when I found out my friend Pete Meyer had passed away.

What a nasty punch in the gut, followed by an inability to breath for a few seconds and a sense of panic. Panic!

Sitting back and thinking about him, I wish I had asked more questions about his life growing up, how he got into radio, his thoughts and beliefs. But here’s the thing about Pete – he was a ‘at this moment’ sort of fellow – no future and no past, jus’ ‘now.’

When I first met Pete, I was a ‘wet behind the ears’ radio wanna-be. He set me straight one afternoon, as I sat in on his program (then on KATA in Arcata,) telling me that there are no real rules to radio other than being yourself and ‘never saying no to a gig, unless you were ready to suffer the consequences.’

As for ‘being myself,’ he let me know that if I continued in the radio biz, there would be a bunch of people who’d try to make me ‘be myself.’ “Listen, but don’t let’em,” he advised.

“‘Being yourself,’ is a journey you have to take BY yourself,” Pete added. “And it’s very rare that anybody gets to know their real selves until they drop the pretenses of being perfect. Know what I mean?”

Vigorously, I nodded my head, though in all honesty, I had no frigging idea what in the hell he was even talking about. I was into the mechanics of the job, the format, the music, the girls – everything but what he was telling me.

But at least I listened – I heard what he was saying and remembered it. Pete was right!

And while I still wish I’d spent more time asking him about his personal life (perhaps the journalist in me,) I know he was real all the time, from the on-air stories to the humor to his hard work. And those are qualities that cannot be taught.

Pete, you’ll be severely missed on this side of life’s curtain. And don’t worry, for the moment, we’re all still breathing.